Lifestyle factors for the prevention of inflammatory bowel disease

Objective To estimate the proportion of cases of Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) that could be prevented by modifiable lifestyle factors.

Design In a prospective cohort study of US adults from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS; n=72 290), NHSII (n=93 909) and Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS; n=41 871), we created modifiable risk scores (MRS; 0–6) for CD and UC based on established lifestyle risk factors, and healthy lifestyle scores (HLS; 0–9) derived from American healthy lifestyle recommendations. We calculated the population attributable risk by comparing the incidence of CD and UC between low-risk (CD-MRS≤1, UC-MRS≤2, HLS≥7) and high-risk groups. We externally validated our findings in three European cohorts: the Swedish Mammography Cohort (n=37 275), Cohort of Swedish Men (n=40 810) and European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (n=404 144).

Results Over 5 117 021 person-years of follow-up (NHS, HPFS: 1986–2016; NHSII: 1991–2017), we documented 346 CD and 456 UC cases. Adherence to a low MRS could have prevented 42.9% (95% CI 12.2% to 66.1%) of CD and 44.4% (95% CI 9.0% to 69.8%) of UC cases. Similarly, adherence to a healthy lifestyle could have prevented 61.1% (95% CI 16.8% to 84.9%) of CD and 42.2% (95% CI 1.7% to 70.9%) of UC cases. In our validation cohorts, adherence to a low MRS and healthy lifestyle could have, respectively, prevented 43.9%–51.2% and 48.8%–60.4% of CD cases and 20.6%–27.8% and 46.8%–56.3% of UC cases.

Conclusions Across six US and European cohorts, a substantial burden of inflammatory bowel diseases risk may be preventable through lifestyle modification.